Leadership Spotlight with Sean Podnar

In our Leadership Spotlight series, we sit down with members of our leadership team to discuss everything from the importance of powerful leadership influence in the tech industry, to of course, the path that led them to Thentia. In this month’s instalment, we chat with Thentia’s VP, People Sean Podnar.

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Thentia’s leadership team is a diverse and exceptional group of professionals who have brought major influence to not only the company’s direction, but to their own teams. Those teams make up Thentia’s structure, functionality, and culture and contribute to our success. In our Leadership Spotlight series, we sit down with members of our leadership team to discuss everything from the importance of powerful leadership influence in the tech industry to of course, the path that led them to Thentia.

This month, we spoke with Sean Podnar, Thentia’s VP, People.

Sean joined Thentia in 2022 as the team’s People leader. Having worked with global design and technology companies in AI, FinTech, HRTech and SaaS, he took Thentia’s People department and has been an integral part of Thentia’s organizational growth over the past year.

The People team plays a key role in many functions of Thentia, including culture, recruitment, people operations, people programs, engagement, development, internal communications and employer branding to name a few.

When he’s not at work, Sean spends lots of time doing “dad stuff.” As a loving father of four,  Sean and his family like to spend time outdoors camping, biking and hiking. As one of Thentia’s fearless leaders, Sean believes that it essential for leaders to tap into the potential of their people, develop their individual and collaborative strengths, enable them to do great things, then move out of the way.

In what ways has technology inspired you or made a positive impact in your career?

I can’t imagine doing my job without technology! You pretty much need technology for most aspects of one’s job in the People business, whether it’s software for hiring, compensation, or operations as a few examples.

I got the bug for technology when I was early in my career and remember standing in a ‘filing room’ to organize hardcopy employee files (yes, that was still a thing). I was inspired to research, to learn and quickly adopt technology, and experiment. I’ve never stopped.

It’s what got me hooked to work in the tech industry, specifically software because it can fundamentally improve the way we work and the outcomes. And, underlying technology is data and insights that can tell a story. It can be used to make important decisions. Without data, we’re really just guessing. While business is about risks and always making business bets, data helps inform decisions and mitigate the risks. The People side of that is no different; we’re using data and insights nearly every day in what we do.

How did you choose GovTech/SaaS as the industry you wanted to work in? What did that pathway look like for you?

Over more than 25 years, I’ve worked in a variety of industries across many sectors from software startups in marketing, to tech or digital in big banking, insurance to enterprise software in customer interaction.

The common thread was always ‘tech’ and that these companies had a unique value proposition. I really wanted to be part of building in a niche market that was a category maker of sorts, which is what I saw in Thentia. Regulatory almost feels like it’s one of the last digital transformation frontiers, which I found so compelling.

Which one of Thentia’s core principles resonates with you the most and why?

Do I really have to pick just one? I think they all are so fundamental to our success and ways of operating, so it’s really hard to pick one.

I would say ‘adaptability’ is likely the one that most resonates with me as we need to always be learning, and be nimble to take that learning and apply it in what we do to be THE digital platform for regulation.

How is Thentia’s culture measured? What are some of the best parts of the culture in your eyes?

In the past, we didn’t really have great measures of our culture. In the past year since I’ve been with Thentia, we’ve attempted to measure culture through both leading and trailing measures. Trailing measures are easy – attrition, for example. Leading measures are much more difficult to understand but may include the level of engagement through attendance at our weekly ‘All Hands’ meeting (we usually have somewhere around 80 to 85% of people attend).

We measure a deeper level of engagement and feedback through initiatives such as our Great Place to Work (GPTW) pursuit. I believe GPTW embodies a strong measure of our culture, engagement, and of the shared purpose that Thentians feel. Nearly 90% of Thentians participated and given that high level, we achieved Great Place to Work certification on our first attempt (it often takes multiple attempts), with an average overall score of 87. We learned a lot about what makes us who we are and where we have several opportunities to improve, which we’re addressing.

From my view, the best part of our culture is our ability to experiment, learn, iterate and try new things. That means we need to be adaptable and be prepared to make shifts where we need, in order to build scalability, win, and deliver for our customers.

Who has inspired you most in your career and why?

I’ve been fortunate to work with many incredible leaders in my career. The most influential was a CEO I worked with many years ago. He was firm, fair, kind, and empathetic. He was highly entrepreneurial and analytical, and had unusually high expectations of driving impact and creating value. He helped shape my mindset as a leader in so many ways that I’m thankful for.

Bonus Question: What is your favourite app?

There are so many that I really think are crucial but I’d say it’s a coin toss between Notion and Slack.

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